More than a million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, signaling that pandemic-induced layoffs remain highly elevated even with the US economy reopening.
US weekly jobless claims totaled 1.43 million in the week that ended Saturday, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was slightly more than the consensus economist estimate of 1.35 million, according to Bloomberg data.
In just a few months, the roughly 49 million unemployment claims filed during the coronavirus pandemic have far surpassed the roughly 37 million during the 18-month Great Recession. Even though weekly claims have consistently declined for 13 weeks in a row, they are still more than double the 665,000 filed during the Great Recession’s worst week.
Continuing claims, which represent the aggregate total of people receiving unemployment benefits, came in at 19.3 million for the week that ended June 20, roughly in line with a revised number from the prior period.
The weekly jobless numbers come as other data show early signs of a US economic recovery. Pending home sales surged a record 44% in May, US consumer confidence jumped the most since 2011 as states reopen, and a gauge of manufacturing rose the most since 1980.
Still, other data disappointed — weekly mortgage applications declined, and ADP’s June employment report showed fewer jobs were added in the month than economists expected. And, stubbornly high weekly unemployment claims remain a worrying sign that the labor market might not rebound as quickly as hoped.
Elevated weekly claims show that “there’s a long tail to this phenomenon,” Seth Carpenter, chief US economist at UBS, told Business Insider. Even though the US is adding jobs, there are still a lot of people getting laid off, he said.
Going forward, unemployment claims could be impacted by surging coronavirus cases that have threatened or set back reopening efforts in some states. California and Arizona on Wednesday saw record COVID-19 cases, and as many as 14 states across the country have either paused or rolled back reopening plans to deal with new outbreaks.